Australian carrier Skywest Airlines has taken delivery of the first of at least eight new ATR 72s, the aircraft becoming the first ATR 72...

Australian carrier Skywest Airlines has taken delivery of its first ATR 72-500, which is also the first ATR 72 to operate in Australia.

Skywest Airlines will operate its new ATR fleet on behalf of Virgin Australia, as part of a 10-year agreement signed recently by the two airlines for Skywest to create a regional-airline network for Virgin Australia.

August 11’s first delivery to Skywest Airlines follows the signing of a contract for four ATR 72-500s and four ATR 72-600s, plus five options, earlier this year between ATR and Singapore-based leasing company Avation PLC, which is leasing the aircraft to the Australian carrier. Jeff Chatham is executive chairman of both companies.

The remaining three ATR 72-500s will be delivered to Avation and Skywest this year, while the four ATR 72-600s will enter into service in 2012. All of these ATR 72s will wear the new white-and-red livery of Virgin Australia.

Australian carrier Skywest Airlines took delivery of the first of its (and Australia's) first ATR 72 on August 11, 2011. The aircraft, a new ATR 72-500, is one of four which Skywest Airlines is to lease from leasing company Avation PLC, whose Executive Chairman Jeff Chatham has the same role at the airline. Skywest will also lease at least four ATR 72-600s from Avation and will use all eight (or more) ATR 72s to create a regional-airline network for Virgin Australia

Initially, Skywest Airlines’ new ATR fleet will operate on Australia ’s east coast, including new regional routes from Brisbane to Gladstone and Brisbane to Port Macquarie. This regional network will expand progressively in 2011 and 2012 with the addition of new destinations.

The ATR 72s will progressively replace Virgin Australia’s Embraer 170 regional jets, while also enabling the introduction of new services and additional frequencies on existing routes. The new ATR aircraft are configured with 68 new-generation seats featuring a 31-inch seat pitch, and the aircraft are fitted with the latest Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127M engines.

“We are proud to be contributing to the expansion of Virgin Australia and the growth of regional aviation across the country,” says Jeff Chatfield, executive chairman of Avation PLC and Skywest Airlines. “ATRs have proven themselves in tough environments featuring unrivalled performances, leading edge comfort and an unmatched reliability. These are the right aircraft for our passengers and our airline, and a great asset for our leasing company, Avation PLC.”

The ATR 72-500 has a passenger capacity of 68 to 74 seats and is powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127M turboprop engines, each providing maximum takeoff power of 2,750 shaft horsepower. The ATR72-500’s maximum takeoff weight is 23,000 kilograms (50,706lb) and its maximum payload is 7,500 kg (16,535lb).

Maximum range with full passenger load is 824 nautical miles (1,526 kilometers) and the ATR 72-500 offers a fuel burn 2.5 kg per passenger per 100 km on a one-hour flight.

Avation PLC is a Singapore-based, London Stock Exchange-listed aircraft leasing company which owns commercial passenger aircraft through subsidiaries. These aircraft are leased to various airlines in Europe, the United States and Australia. Avation’s business strategy involves focus on new-generation narrowbody commercial aircraft to be leased to a geographically diversified client base of customer airlines.

Australia’s Skywest Airlines (not to be confused with the much larger U.S. regional airline of the same name) has been in operation for nearly 50 years, and currently flies to 14 destinations. Skywest operates flights across regional Western Australia, as well as to Darwin in the Northern Territory and Melbourne in the southeast corner of Australia.

Skywest Airlines also flies internationally to Denpasar, on the Indonesian island of Bali.

With a strong presence in the corporate charter, ‘Fly-in, Fly-Out’ mining market and scheduled commercial flights, Skywest Airlines carries more than 800,000 passengers annually, serving business travellers, tourists and regional communities. Its fleet consists of Fokker 50 turboprops and Fokker 100 jet aircraft.

Recently, Skywest also acquired its first Airbus A320, which is fitted with 162 seats, bringing its total fleet to 18 aircraft.